The recently concluded “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” awards in London – which yielded only two restaurants from Bangkok – provides a snapshot of current tastes and a raft of great places to eat around the worldby Laurence Civil
At the recent “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015” held at Guildhall in London, Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca regained its title as “The S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant” that it last held in 2013. Narisawa claimed the title of “Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Asia,” climbing six places to the No. 8 spot, and 2015’s “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” winner – Gaggan in Bangkok – jumped an impressive seven places to No. 10. Bangkok’s second restaurant was Nahm at Metropolitan Bangkok, which took 27th place.
The highest new entry was Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet from China in at 24th place. Overall, Asia claimed seven places in the “50 Best” list, with Spain claiming a similar number underscoring the trend for Spanish and Latin American restaurants.
El Celler de Can Roca is the collective holy trinity of the three Roca brothers, representing the very best of modern Spanish cuisine. Head Chef Joan produces thoughtful but original cooking, his stand-out dish being mackerel with pickles and mullet roe. Pastry Chef Jordi creates imagination-defying desserts, with sensory wonderments to create perfume-inspired dishes. To complete the triangle are Josep’s beautifully considered wine pairings. The synergy is a vibrant family dynamic dining experience, with a deep sense of hospitality. The food is simultaneously artisanal and technical, with influence from both the traditional and avant-garde. Most importantly, it has never forgotten its humble roots, as it boasts a sense of familial warmth and the need to serve remarkably delicious dishes paired with outstanding wines.
The first two placings at “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” between Gaggan and Narisawa were reversed in London. Narisawa in Tokyo, Japan came in 8th place also to take The “Acqua Pana Best Restaurant in Asia” award. Here, the restaurant, the man and his food are all deeply in tune with the landscape and the moment. The food style is Japanese, with strong French influences and his standout dish “Bread of the Forest 2001” is made from a ritual of fermenting and making the bread at diner’s tables in an extraordinary nest of twigs and leaves.
Making it to 10th place makes Gaggan the highest placed Bangkok-based restaurant ever at “The World’s 50 Best.” He has re-invented Indian cuisine by using modernist techniques that he learnt during his internship with Ferran Adria’s research team in Spain. The use of liquid nitrogen, smoke and dehydrated ingredients add theatre as well as taste and texture to the dining experience.
The Spanish trend continues with the cutting edge Basque-based Azurmendi in 19th place, which has a Thai connection being the parent restaurant of Aziamendi in Phuket. The Basque native Eneko Atxa’s philosophy has always been about pushing the boundaries. His outstanding truffled egg is cooked ‘inside out’ with part of the yolk being removed and replaced with truffle consommé, which gives a mind blowing taste experience.
The voting for the awards is done by 1,000 international leaders in the restaurant community. The Academy comprises 27 separate regions around the world, each of which has 36 members, including a chairperson, and each member can cast seven votes. Of those seven, at least three votes must recognize restaurants outside of the academy member’s own region.
The panel in each region is made up of food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and highly regarded ‘gastronomes.’ Members list their choices in order of preference, based on their best restaurant experiences of the previous 18 months. There is no pre-determined checklist of criteria, which is intended to make the list as varied and as open as possible.
This year, for the first time, “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” is working with professional services consultancy Deloitte as its official independent adjudication partner. The adjudication by Deloitte will ensure that the integrity and authenticity of the voting process and the resulting list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015” are protected.
Following this year’s result, the criteria was criticized by luminaries such as Joel Robuchon – the collective holder of the largest number of Michelin stars – who said that the criteria was opaque and obscure. To address the issue we spoke with William Drew, group editor of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
In response to the criticism, William said: “We don’t recognize those descriptions. We are very clear about how the voting process is structured. We do not publicize the names of the voters precisely to reduce the potential for lobbying.”
“It’s impossible for all of the Academy voters to visit all of the restaurants,” he says. “But they do cast their votes based on the quality of the dining experience they have, so performance is key. The list provides a snapshot of current tastes and a raft of great places to eat around the world. The awards are a barometer of tastes in global gastronomy for that year.”
This was the last time the awards will be held in London. In 2016, the awards will move to New York.